2014 Legislative Session Benefits Seniors

Washington State Capitol Building, Olympia, in summer.
(Photo by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr Creative Commons.)

The Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services is pleased to sponsor a luncheon meeting on July 11 at the Kent Senior Activity Center in which Washington State Senator Karen Keiser will discuss recent state developments related to health care. In preparation, Senator Keiser provided this 2014 legislative update related to a State Alzheimer's Plan, the Long-term Care Ombudsman program, contaminant reduction, and services for individuals with developmental disabilities:   

Senator Karen Keiser represents the 33rd District in southwest King County.

First and foremost, the governor has signed into law my bill to require the development of a state plan for Alzheimer's patients and their families. I sponsored this bill to help the 150,000-plus Washingtonians and their families with this disease or other dementias. This is a major breakthrough for people and families that may deal with dementias today or in years to come. The law creates a working group to address policies for early detection and diagnosis of dementias; ways to reduce the stigma toward those who face this disease and to help those who live alone; and how to coordinate approaches to dementia care and implement best practices across the state.

Second, I was able to insert a proviso in the state operating budget that provides $306,000 for our state Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which in recent years had been severely cut and was near extinction. This valuable program uses many volunteers to visit nursing homes and check on how people are doing and being treated. As a member of the Long-Term Care Task Force, I will explore additional solutions to enhance this important program.

Third, until now, home caregivers have paid out of pocket for the sanitary gloves that help them care for patients without spreading contaminants from one activity to another. We passed legislation this session to help reduce those costs significantly, either by shifting the cost of the gloves in full to Medicaid or, for patients who are not on Medicaid, negotiating lower prices through state agencies.

Lastly, another critical gain this session was to tap enhanced federal funding to provide services to some 5,000 Developmentally Disabled clients and their families who have, in some cases, been on a waiting list for years, through the passage of the Community First Choice Option. This is a piece of the Affordable Care Act that I'd been trying to move the state to adopt for the past three years. This will be a huge help for caregivers of their adult children or seniors with developmental disabilities.

Kudos to all members of the Washington State Legislature and to Governor Jay Inslee on this good work!